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WELLE

The Water Footprint of Companies: Local Measures in Global Supply Chains

WELLE

Approach

We develop a method to calculate the water footprint of companies, also applicable to other kinds of organizations such as public authorities and NGOs. The method is called Organizational Water Footprint.

In a first step, we carry out a multi-criteria analysis of existing tools and approaches to assess water-related environmental impacts of organizations (see publication). Afterwards, we combine the so far mainly product-related water footprint method and the multi-impact organizational life cycle assessment approach.

Step 1)

Review of existing approaches

Step 2)

Combining the Organizational LCA and the Water Footprint ISO standard.

Step 3)

Practical guideline on the application of the Organisational Water Footprint (OWF)

WELLE Database

The Water Footprint of Companies: Local Measures in Global Supply Chains.

Freshwater is unevenly distributed around the globe. Therefore, analysing the local consequences of indirect water consumption requires information about where exactly water is consumed throughout a company’s supply chain. So far, life cycle assessment (LCA) databases mostly do not provide the provenience of the water consumed for material and energy supply. To close this gap, WELLE develops a method to make regionalized water inventory data available for energy provision and materials, including a variety of metals and chemicals.

Download the WELLE database (*.xlsx)

WELLE Case Studies

Case Studies

Four industry partners tested the organizational water footprint method, the regionalized water scarcity database and the WELLE tool. The scope and preliminary results of the case studies are described in the following.

Scroll down to learn more about each individual case study.

Neoperl

Neoperl GmbH is a medium-sized company that offers innovative solutions regarding drinking water for the plumbing industry. Within the WELLE project, Neoperl carries out the organizational water footprint of its main facility located in Müllheim, Germany, and aims at gaining insights in the facility’s impact on water scarcity worldwide.

The analysis includes, besides the water scarcity impacts of water consumed in the facility itself, also the upstream supply chain (purchased goods, materials and fuels), and the company’s main supporting activities. Within an intensive data collection process, Neoperl tracked the country of origin of most of their purchased materials, which allows identifying regional water scarcity hotspots based on available country-specific characterization factors. In addition, Neoperl’s supporting activities were analyzed with regard to water consumption and impacts on water scarcity. This implied a detailed data collection on on-site energy generation, company-owned vehicles, buildings and machinery (including component materials), work place equipment and the facility’s canteen. Preliminary water footprint results show that purchased goods and materials contribute to a significant share of Neoperl’s water consumption and water scarcity impacts. The prevalent product category is represented by purchased metals, especially stainless steel and brass. The region-specific data collection allows identifying in which countries the most water intense materials are produced. On this basis, the supply chain of selected materials will be analyzed more in depth based on suppliers’ information and the WELLE database. This knowledge will inform management purchase decisions and increase awareness on Neoperl’s impacts on freshwater scarcity.

Deutsches Kupferinstitut Berufsverband e.V.

Copper is a material needed to secure our modern life. With regard to the demand for e-mobility and green energy the demand for copper is assumed to be growing. As a result, resource demand, e.g. for water, might increase as well.

Against this backdrop, Deutsches Kupferinstitut Berufsverband e.V. contributes to the WELLE project by assessing the water footprint of the European copper cathode production and identifies local hotspots with a granularity going down to local water management, e.g. intake, consumption and/or sewage. Since more than half of the copper processed and used in Europe is imported from different places of the world, it is worth to know the bottleneck to ensure production and supply risk are best monitored. In previous studies on the European copper supply chain we found out that in water rich regions, e.g. northern Europe, water is extremely abundant and groundwater is rather transformed in surface water, while in dry regions, e.g. Arizona in North America, water can be a limiting factor to deal with. A preliminary assessment of the European cathode production shows that the copper extraction taking place outside of Europe is dominant for the blue water consumption. Further steps in the granularity will help to identify and localize the hotspot of this upstream and help to best address the water management, taking into account production and supply risk perspective.

Volkswagen AG

Volkswagen analyzed the organizational water footprint of its production site in Uitenhage, South Africa, which is part of Volkswagen South Africa. With its ca. 4,000 employees, it is the largest automobile production site in Africa and manufactures the Polo as well as engines.

Apart from the direct water consumption at the site (Scope 1), the water consumption caused by the energy supply (Scope 2) and by the material and upstream product manufacturing (Scope 3) was analyzed. In addition to the water volume consumed, hotspots within the supply chain were identified. An initial regionalization at the country level was conducted. A more in-depth regionalization on the water basin level is in preparation. Initial findings of the water footprint analysis for the production site Uitenhage: The predominant portion of the water consumption lies in the product supply chain (particularly in the raw material extraction/fabrication) and in the use phase of the products (particularly in the fuel supply), respectively. On the other hand, Scope 1 (direct on-site water consumption) and Scope 2 (energy supply) contribute less than five percent to the overall water consumption. In the supply chain, steels, platinum-group metals and elastomers were identified as hotspots. To what extent these water consumption hotspots contribute to the generation of water stress is currently part of an in-depth analysis.

Evonik

The Evonik Nutrition & Care GmbH participates in the WELLE project with two case studies which are conducted by the Life Cycle Management team which is part of the Evonik Technology and Infrastructure GmbH.

Water scarcity footprints are assessed for two amino acids at different production sites: lysine in Blair (USA) and methionine in Antwerp (Belgium). Further, the use phases of those two amino acids will be modelled since these products significantly help to reduce water consumption of farmed animals.

The case study of the lysine production has shown that in this case the major share of the water consumption accrues upstream. Water required to irrigate the raw material corn is the most decisive factor regarding the water scarcity footprint whereas the water required for the fermentation process itself only plays a minor role. As Blair is situated in an area of medium to high water scarcity and the corn cultivation takes place roughly in a 150 km radius around the production site, the impact of the water withdraw in this region is stressed.

Motivated by the above mentioned insights, first steps were taken to improve the exchange with relevant suppliers in order to gain a deeper understanding of the upstream supply chain. This resulted in a more precise estimation of the water scarcity factor for the procured corn based on the actual region of cultivation. Further action will be taken within the context of the planned water stewardship measures. Also in the case of methionine, raw materials are highly relevant when it comes to hotspots in a water scarcity footprint. A detailed review of the supply chain of selected raw materials illustrated that it is crucial to be precise when it comes to locating the origin of raw materials as deviations up to a factor of 100 were detected for local water scarcity. Whenever possible, an in depth analysis of the supply chain is important in order to draw a clearer picture in terms of water scarcity.

WELLE Risk Assessment and Mitigation

Risk assessment

Besides the physical risk detected with the organizational water footprint method, also regulative and reputational risk factors are considered to select the main hotspots along organizations’ supply chains. For this aim, a multi-criteria approach will be developed and applied to the main physical hotspots identified in the case studies.

Mitigation measures

The case study results and subsequent multi-criteria risk assessment deliver the main hotspots along the organizations’ supply chains, e.g. a specific facility or supplier. To contribute alleviating the local water scarcity situation, the WELLE partners will initiate Water Stewardship projects with the participation of local authorities and further stakeholder networks.

Apart from the direct water consumption at the site (Scope 1), the water consumption caused by the energy supply (Scope 2) and by the material and upstream product manufacturing (Scope 3) was analyzed. In addition to the water volume consumed, hotspots within the supply chain were identified. An initial regionalization at the country level was conducted. A more in-depth regionalization on the water basin level is in preparation. Initial findings of the water footprint analysis for the production site Uitenhage: The predominant portion of the water consumption lies in the product supply chain (particularly in the raw material extraction/fabrication) and in the use phase of the products (particularly in the fuel supply), respectively. On the other hand, Scope 1 (direct on-site water consumption) and Scope 2 (energy supply) contribute less than five percent to the overall water consumption. In the supply chain, steels, platinum-group metals and elastomers were identified as hotspots. To what extent these water consumption hotspots contribute to the generation of water stress is currently part of an in-depth analysis.

1) Water Stewardship

Initiate local actions at hotspots in global supply - involve suppliers and contact local stakeholders.

2) Management

Combine environmental management systems and purchase department.

3) Ecodesign

Analyse influence of product design (material choices, recyclability, etc.) on global water resources.


Besides the physical risk detected with the organizational water footprint method, also regulative and reputational risk factors are considered to select the main hotspots along organizations’ supply chains. For this aim, a multi-criteria approach will be developed and applied to the main physical hotspots identified in the case studies.

Often, an organisation's control over measures to mitigate water use along its supply chain is inversely correlated with the measures' impact. E.g. it may be relatively easy for an organisation to mitigate on-site water use. However, on-site water use may only pose a small contribution to the organisation's Organisational Water Footprint (OWF). Other small effort high impact measures may occur upstream or downstream of the orgaisation's premises or close-by supply chain activities where the company faces difficulties to exercise any influence.

WELLE Tool

To spread and facilitate the application of the Organizational Water Footprint method, a tool is provided. The tool helps identifying possible sources of organizational water consumption by leading the user through the potential activities an organization carries out. The tool is directly linked to the database, which allows directly retrieving and analyzing the regionalized water consumption data. The WELLE Organizational Water Footprint (OWF) tool is available via https://wf-tools.see.tu-berlin.de/.

Results and Publications

Forin, S., Berger, M., Finkbeiner, M., Tikana, L., Ockenfeld, K., Bischer, L.-M., Binder, M., Wojciechowski, A., Kirchner, M., Gossmann, J., Söchtig, M., Weis, C., Thylmann, D., Plaga, B., 2019. WELLE: Water footprints in companies: Organizational Water Footprint - Local measures in global value chains.
https://bmbf-grow.de/sites/bmbf-grow.de/files/documents/welle.pdf

Berger, M., Forin, S., Finkbeiner, M., 2019. Water Footprint of Organizations_ Local Actions in Global Supply Chains (WELLE).
https://bmbf-grow.de/sites/bmbf-grow.de/files/documents/12_berger_welle.pdf

Forin, S., Berger, M., Finkbeiner, M., 2018. Measuring Water-Related Environmental Impacts of Organizations: Existing Methods and Research Gaps. Adv. Sustainable Syst. 2, 1700157.
doi:10.1002/adsu.201700157

Berger, M., Forin, S., Finkbeiner, M., 2017. Wasserfußabdruck für Unternehmen: Lokale Maßnahmen in Globalen Wertschöpfungsketten (WELLE).
https://bmbf-grow.de/sites/bmbf-grow.de/files/documents/07_berger_welle.pdf

WELLE Project Partners

Project Coordinators



Silvia Forin

Research Associate

silvia.forin@tu-berlin.de

030-314-79502

Dr. Markus Berger

Team Leader 'Industrial Ecology'

markus.berger@tu-berlin.de

030-314-25084

Jonas Bunsen

Research Associate

jonas.bunsen@tu-berlin.de

030-314-28453

Imprint

Technische Universität Berlin
Fachgebiet Sustainable Engineering
Prof. Dr. Matthias Finkbeiner
Straße des 17. Juni 135
D-10623 Berlin
Phone: +49 (0)30 314-24341
E-Mail: matthias.finkbeiner@tu-berlin.de
Web: www.see.tu-berlin.de

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